Posted on February 15, 2024

Chicago Scraps Gunshot Detection System Accused of Racial Bias

Associated Press, February 14, 2024

Chicago will not renew its ShotSpotter contract and plans to stop using the controversial gunshot detection system later this year, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office announced on Tuesday.

The system, which relies on an artificial intelligence algorithm and network of microphones to identify gunshots, has been criticized for inaccuracy, racial bias and law enforcement misuse. An Associated Press investigation of the technology detailed how police and prosecutors used ShotSpotter data as evidence in charging a Chicago grandfather with murder before a judge dismissed the case due to insufficient evidence.

Chicago’s contract with SoundThinking, a public safety technology company that says its ShotSpotter tool is used in roughly 150 cities, expires on Friday. The city plans to wind down use of ShotSpotter technology by late September, according to city officials. Since 2018, the city has spent $49m on ShotSpotter.


Johnson’s office said that during the interim period, law enforcement and community safety groups would “assess tools and programs that effectively increase both safety and trust”, and issue recommendations.


Johnson, a first-term mayor, campaigned on a promise to end the use of ShotSpotter, putting him at odds with police leaders who have praised the system.

They argue that crime rates – not residents’ race – determine where the technology is deployed.

“Technology is where policing is going as a whole. If we’re not utilizing technology, then we fall behind in crime fighting,” Superintendent Larry Snelling of Chicago police told the AP in an October interview. {snip}